Margaret Cho: HIV/AIDS still carries stigma
January 13th, 2011
05:58 PM ET

Margaret Cho: HIV/AIDS still carries stigma

For Margaret Cho, HIV/AIDS isn’t something to think about once a year around the start of December – it’s a personal cause.

The comedian recently spoke with CNN about what inspired her to get involved with HIV/AIDS activism as "Anderson Cooper 360°" gears up to mark the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis with a special presentation, "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS." The hour-long special, which airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN, will also feature guests Sir Elton John, Sharon Stone, Mo'Nique and Cho, among others.

We caught up with Cho to talk about where the issue of HIV/AIDS stands today as well as if she’s spoken to one Bristol Palin lately.

CNN: Why is this issue so important to you, personally?

Cho: It's an issue that I, unfortunately, grew up around. HIV/AIDS was a really big problem right when I was a kid growing up in the ‘80s in San Francisco. There were so many people who were dying of AIDS and it was such a huge, huge, terrible issue in our community and then, of course, it was a global issue as well.

It made me realize that issues of health can be very political, and so that’s really where I began my political journey as a young AIDS activist trying to raise money and trying to find a way out of the problem.

CNN: What are some of the stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS that bother you the most?

Cho: I think that because the disease affected mostly gay people, there was a stigma attached that there was something wrong with people who had it – that the homophobia that surrounded the disease made people more hesitant to want to find a cure.

Or, that there was something wrong with having [HIV/AIDS], and that people who had it often were dying needlessly because they were either not aware of it, they didn't want to be aware of it, they didn't want to be associated with it and that’s why they didn’t seek treatment, or they weren’t getting help from their families because they somehow felt that they deserved the illness. There was so much made about the way that people contracted the disease and judgment being placed on that which was really terrible.

CNN: Do you think the stigmas and discrimination are lessening as the public becomes more educated about the disease?

Cho: Yes, but there's still a great deal of homophobia surrounding it. It hasn't gone away completely. I think there is definitely more sensitivity to it and there's more awareness, but I think that there's still a prevailing attitude that it is something that is somehow contracted because of a kind of non-vigilance on the part of the victim. There's a judgment still surrounding the disease which I think should be eradicated along with the disease itself.

CNN: Let’s switch gears for a minute. Have you spoken to Bristol Palin since all of the blog drama unfolded? [Note: After Palin and Cho wrapped "Dancing With the Stars," Cho, on her personal blog, famously accused Sarah Palin of forcing her daughter to do the show. A war of words ensued.]

Cho: I don't think she's ever really spoken to me. Obviously, she has a speech writer writing for her so I don't have a response for her because she hasn't talked to me.

CNN: What do you think about all the press surrounding Sarah Palin after the tragic shootings in Arizona this past weekend?

Cho: I think it was very irresponsible of her to put these Democrats in gunfights on her web site. I didn't agree with her when she did it and I don't think that was right. The fact that this all has happened just shows how deadly some ideas can be and it's irresponsible of Sarah Palin and obviously she knows that because she took it down and obviously people are very angry. I think that they should know better but obviously they didn't think to. When you glorify the use of guns, this is what happens.

Hear more about Cho’s involvement with HIV/AIDS activism when "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS” airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. ChoChoTrain

    i'm sad that Margret Cho has HIV & AIDS. 🙁 #Pray4MargretCho

    January 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. patrick

    I understand the severity of the situation, and i DO think that it should be know to public, but does cnn have to tag something about tucson onto EVERY article?

    January 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Vera

    Help fund Dr. Tuohy's breast cancer vaccine!

    January 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. r

    No, people don't have to feel all warm and cozy about HIV and/or AIDS.

    January 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rachael M

    "I think it was very irresponsible of her to put these Democrats in gunfights on her web site."

    CNN, the correct word here is "gunSIGHTS", not "gunFIGHTS". (Although having a website just featuring Democrats in gunfights would be semi-awesome) PROOFREAD!

    January 14, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. john

    PLEASE!!! This is the easiest disease in the world to prevent, keep it in your pants and quit with the needle sharing! I'm so sick of hollywood rallying around a disease that affects addicts and the lazy.. less that 1/500th of a percent is contracted from any other way. We need more attention on cancers and childhood diseases than this idiocy.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • helena maren

      explain the AIDS/HIV epidemic in africa. spread by things like folk beliefs like raping virgins cures it. spread by things like the Pope telling the large amount of catholics that condoms put your mortal soul at danger.

      February 4, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy

    Does Charles McGann. L, live under the bridge with the Three Billy Goats Gruff?

    January 14, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  8. banasy

    Moral: put a raincoat, guys! You're gonna get off, even if it takes longer than the two minutes you're used to.

    And Miss Cho- we've heard this from you before, and the message IS relevant, but it's not going to make your career jump-start from the stall it's been in. DWTS, anyone? Anyone?

    January 14, 2011 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      banasy, she isn't asking for anything! Someone has to get out there and deliver the message. The local and national government isn't going to do it! What cause or charity do you speak for? I am a member of GLBT group at my job and we make sure there voice for everyone, straight or gay. I also raise money for autism and breast cancer. If I was a celebrity you better believe I'd be using my status to speak out for these issues everytime I was infront of the camera or during interviews!

      January 14, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • helena maren

      The woman constantly works. it may not be all national spotlight, but the woman works. and anyone with a conscience and the means has the moral imperative to bring to light issues like this.

      February 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Alex

    She is not only speaking out for gays with HIV, but children and mothers also. You don't have to break her down just because you don't like her or her views. Cho is actively going out into the trenches and asking "Why is there no cure yet"! Cho is asking where is the family of the individuals dying everyday alone in the hospital or their homes? This virus should not be continuing to kill just because of politics or money. Ask yourself this question, Could you survive paying for three to six drugs a day that cost $3,000.00 for a single 30 day perscription? That's how much it cost to get these drugs and most people do not not have insurance to help cover this. Could you imagine how many people, straight and gay, are infected everyday just because they think a condom on ones male part doesn't feel good?

    January 14, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      Well, if they can't protect themselves or use the very BASICS of common sense then the thinning of that part of the gene pool can only benefit the rest of mankind.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • helena maren

      john, i think you are missing the point. the majority of the problem with the AIDS epidemic has nothing to do with the intelligence of the person who contracts it, so much as the malice and backwards thinking of those like the Pope who oppose barrier methods of contraception that have the added benefit of disease control. religion is the basis of politics, which is the reason why HIV/AIDS research isn't quite as popular as breast cancer research as a cause. sure you have people fighting for it, but not nearly enough, in my opinion. there needs to be more than a few actresses and actors and comedians or GAP campaigns.

      February 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Charles McGann. L

    Torture then twodifflivers then the visual relce

    January 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Charles McGann. L


    January 13, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Robert II of Navarre

    I used to love All American Girl and M Cho's the only comedian I've seen live, so I'm glad to hear she's a philanthropist as well, universal philanthropy will save us all from ourselves.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Charles McGann. L

    Then the worms state light an dark of the moon to futer use a worm so there no understatement. To china they did this an that

    January 13, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Charles McGann. L

    They showed two children made by childerits the going out removing the stomac using precnicy to make blood work feed it wormes

    January 13, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Charles McGann. L

    Like all of that for a remark to an ice sulinder at the true baTtel of egypt of the destruction of a dam to hold you in time

    January 13, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Lorraine


    January 13, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Charles McGann. L

    Change some thing they can die quicker due to a world statment its children

    January 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  18. nibmejibme

    Go charles Go!!!

    January 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Charles McGann. L

    Pass through each other exzactly the same to heal the ends

    January 13, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Charles (in Charge)

    All the seriousness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic beside the point for a second (and I know I'm going to get nailed to a cross for this comment), when I was a teenager in the late 1990's, I'd hit it. As a twenty something horn dog, I still would. Anyone have any objections, that have any rationale to back them whatsoever? Okay, good. BTW, I've never even gotten crabs or the chicken pox...

    January 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  21. HUH?

    @Charles McGann. L...I know that posting a comment doesn’t require spell check or coherent sentences but HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS-YOU MAKE NO SENSE AT ALL!!!! My brain hurts after reading your comment.

    January 13, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Charles McGann. L

    How come no cure do you know how stupid that virous looks it relies on a matter to keep it working an its like the hiv is waighting to be digested s. The hole thing looks stupid. An the hole thing is supost to b digested like passing a cold does it go back to egypt like hoking a body to a camno dragon an there surviving off each other no food I went a wile with no food at times I c vs. I charles mcgann don't mind if you use my blood if resurch ill sighn my screen an leave it there till it wars off

    January 13, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reush

      It's very hard to take you seriously when you type like that.

      January 13, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd

      I have no idea what you're ranting even means, but I will correct you in that viruses are NOT digested in your stomach like a burger (nor is a cold virus for that matter). Do us a favor and back away from the keyboard.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • s

      Our tax dollars for education gone totally to waste. You comment made no sense at all.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Learn to Spell

      January 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • helena maren

      i am thinking maybe charles's first language is not english and he is inputing this all into babelfish.

      February 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Cho Choo Chew

    Cho, the has-been/never was, still desperately seeking relevance.

    She just can't face the fact that NO ONE CARES WHAT SHE THINKS, SAYS, or DOES...She's Paris Hilton, without the charm, looks, or money.

    January 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Yup. She's not even funny as a comedian. I've tried watching her. It's just pointless.

      January 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ciara

      then why the hell did you even read the article when the headline clearly had her name in it? sometimes people like you really baffle me.

      January 15, 2011 at 3:41 am | Report abuse |

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